By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
March 27, 2019
When new patients come into my clinic they’re often loaded down with a bag full of prescription drugs. This includes all sorts of meds… statins, blood thinners, anti-diabetics, antidepressants and so much more.
And when I start digging I usually find that it all started with one prescription.
For example, I find that patients taking statins often end up on diabetic medications in the short-term. (In most cases, they are pretty sure their doctor never explained to them that statin users have about a 38% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.)
At the same time, diabetic drugs like metformin can cause a great deal of gastrointestinal distress. This includes heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. Some physicians may adjust or switch out the medication. But many of them will just add an antacid or a proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec or Nexium to offset the symptoms.
In the meantime, both metformin and certain heartburn medications tend to deplete your levels of vitamin B12. (This is even more apparent when you take them together.) And if you’re vegetarian or vegan for health or ethical reasons your need for supplemental B12 is even more important.
Unfortunately, B12 deficiency can leave you feeling weak, tired and lethargic. It can also result in depression, behavioral changes and mimic dementia symptoms.
The next thing you know, you’re shuffled off to a mental health professional. One who is more than happy to send you home with a prescription for an antidepressant or other drugs.
I could keep this chain of events going for another four or five pages. I could tell you about new patients who are trying to keep track of 10 to 15 prescription meds each day – many prescribed to treat the side effects of the previous ones. And all of them are desperate to reclaim their lives.
But I think you probably get the point…
Prescription Drugs are often more Dangerous
than the Disease you’re trying to Treat!
Today’s mainstreams physicians or extenders like physician assistants and nurse practitioners are often much too busy to do more than pull out their prescription pads in the short time they have with you. And the drugs they prescribe for you are often more dangerous than the disease you’re trying to treat.
It often starts with a “pre-disease” such as pre-diabetes or pre-hypertension; perhaps slightly elevated cholesterol levels, a low level positive auto-immune marker or a mild case of depression.
I’ll tell you right now. In almost all cases, drugs should not be the first line of defense when it comes to treating pre-, mild, high-normal or borderline conditions. They are inappropriate, and often just the beginning of a progressively downward health spiral.
That’s why I take a different approach to patients straddling the border of disease.
I consider this a warning zone. Some might call it a wake up call. But no matter what you call it, it’s a time to take action – to identify the TRUE UNDERLYING CAUSE and nip it in the bud before it ever becomes a problem.
And you know as well as I do there are three things that are going to count the most when it comes to staving off disease.
Adopting a healthy eating style loaded with plant based organic (when possible) whole foods– and low in processed foods, sugar, dairy products and meat. This way of eating isn’t only great for your heart and brain health, it also protects your gut microbiome – which is linked to so many health conditions when it is disturbed.
Getting plenty of physical activity. While I prefer high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT), there is absolutely nothing wrong with low-intensity-steady-state activity (LISS). You can learn more about each of these types of activity here.
Hitting the sweet spot of 7 hours of sleep a night. As I reported just a few weeks ago, not getting enough sleep increases your chances of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, weight gain, dementia and early death.
But what if you are already taking
Multiple Prescription Drugs?
If you’ve already been roped into a lifetime of prescription drugs, it’s well past time to sit down and have a very serious discussion with your doctor. Any physician worth his or her salt who has kept current with the research regarding the benefits of diet/lifestyle will address your concerns and help you get off of them.
Any medications for pre-“anything” should be the first to go. They are a poor choice of first-line treatment when simple changes in lifestyle habits are available.
But it may not be possible to remove your meds in one visit or even a few months.
For example, if you have truly high blood pressure you’ll have to make some serious dietary and lifestyle changes, after having a comprehensive history and physical done to bring it down. There are plenty of supplements that can help, too. (During this time, your doctor will need to closely monitor your progress.)
Plus, some drugs like antidepressants and pain killers are addictive. You simply cannot go “cold turkey” without serious withdrawal symptoms. This means you’ll have to spend several weeks or months lowering the dosage on a regular basis. (Again, close monitoring is needed.)
If you physician fails to work with you, or doesn’t know how to “de-prescribe”, your best bet is to find a certified functional medicine doctor like myself.
We’re trained to widen our lens and take in every aspect of your health; sort of a 30,000 foot view. This means we spend a lot of time talking to you. We dig deep into your history to find the underlying causes of your problem… and actually correct it upstream, so that your symptoms resolve on their own downstream.
So don’t fall into the trap of conventional medicine’s prescriptionism where docs are trained to “name it, blame it and tame it”. Find out what’s really causing your health problem and nip it in the bud – without prescription drugs.
You can easily find a functional physician in your area at ifm.org…the Institute for Functional Medicine.
Look for one who is an MD or DO and make sure he or she has the IFMCP certification after their name. Call and talk to them before scheduling an appointment to make sure they’re really practicing functional medicine… and not just “trying it out”.
Statins Linked to Higher Diabetes Risk. Press Release. Wiley. Mar 2019
Reinstatler L, et al. Association of Biochemical B12 Deficiency With Metformin Therapy and Vitamin B12 Supplements. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2006. Diabetes Care. 2012 Feb; 35(2): 327–333.
Long AN, et al. Vitamin B(12) deficiency associated with concomitant metformin and proton pump inhibitor use. Diabetes Care. 2012 Dec;35(12):e84.
Coppen A, et al. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jan;19(1):59-65.